Trouble is a friend: Inside the mind of Gucci's street artist, Trevor Andrew
I'm not really like, in the fashion world," declares Trevor Andrew within the first minute of my chat with him. "I kind of live in between these ideas."
So what was I doing interviewing the Canadian native, Brooklyn-based street artist, musician and former Olympic snowboarder on the morning after Gucci's fall/winter 2016 show in Milan? Well, it's those very ideas — of street culture and art, music and fashion — that have come together in Gucci's latest offering of eclectic ready-to-wear pieces and accessories. The Italian house's first artist collaboration under creative director Alessandro Michele's eye, Andrew's presence in the collection is prominent, loud and unapologetically street — represented by his interpretation of the house's famous GG logo.
It isn't high fashion's first rodeo with street art and graffiti. Louis Vuitton's first Stephen Sprouse collaboration in 2000 saw the renowned artist defacing the logo, which resulted in further partnerships down the road — but what's different about Michele's appointment of Andrew (who also fronts the band, Trouble Andrew) is the artist's utter obsession with Gucci.
In fact, the first luxury item Andrew purchased was a silver Gucci watch when he was 17. His affinity with the fashion house continued to grow, leading him to brand his denim jacket with the Gucci logo (seven or eight years ago), which he subsequently wore on tour. "I've been making stuff my whole life," he shares. "As a kid I would thrift with my mom or buy stuff at the Salvation Army and deconstruct, remake, sew and add patches. I made this denim jacket and painted on it."
But it wasn't until 2012 where he'd really make his mark as the GucciGhost. One Halloween night, he cut out two eye holes from a Gucci sheet and walked around New York City as people exclaimed, "Look it's a Gucci Ghost!"
Loving the way people responded, the artist went on to paint his interpretation of the monogram (two skinny letter Gs facing each other) on everything from rubbish bins and skateboards to mirrors — it has even shown up in a tattoo. Andrew's homage to Gucci through his street art continued to blur the lines between punk's trash art and streetwear's logo-heavy cult style — eventually catching the attention of Michele.
While the 37-year-old and father of one (he's in marital bliss with American singer-songwriter, Santigold) is no stranger to the spotlight, he's undoubtedly a refreshing addition to Milan Fashion Week's lineup of creatives. I find out what he brings to the table.
You've straddled quite a few components of artistry in your life: You grew up skateboarding, were an Olympic snowboarder and you're also a musician. How do these aspects influence your work as an artist now?
Skateboarding is the root of the way I live my life, and the kind of mentality that that lifestyle can bring: Making your own rules, not working within a structure, having the freedom to just create and fall down and get back up. My musical influences stem from roots like counter culture, indie, as well as music I discovered in skateboarding videos. When you're dealing with artists — whether they're skateboaders, musicians or designers — whatever the medium, you get people who bring interesting perspectives in style and aesthetic.
What is it about the Gucci logo that draws you in?
It just means greatness, great quality, leadership and just...it's like...godly, you know?
When you first started painting the town Gucci, was it done out of mockery or praise?
Praise, entirely. I wouldn't paint my whole surroundings and everything that I could find with something that I thought was a joke. I wanted to make everything around me feel "Gucci". I felt like I could make something that was ugly pretty just by painting Gucci on it. It was entirely out of love and wanting to always feel as great as when I bought my first Gucci piece — always reliving that kind of high.
Were you afraid and nervous at all about how the people at Gucci would react to the GucciGhost?
No. I wanted them to notice me, even if it was a good or bad thing. I was just creating — I wasn't out there trying to make money off of Gucci. I was hoping that they would notice what I was doing — that was my whole point. I knew that if the right person with a vision saw it, they would appreciate it.
Which brings us to how Alessandro first noticed you. When and how did he reach out to you?
He approached me through a mutual friend, Ari Marcopoulos, a photographer who did their Pre-Fall look book. I got a text from Ari to send over photos and videos. He told me that they [the team at Gucci] thought I was cool. Just that alone...I felt like I had made it. Three weeks later, Ari said, "Yo, get at me right away, my friend wants to connect you with Alessandro". Later on a call, they asked if I could come to Rome the following week. I was like, "Of course!"
Did you have any reservations about working with him?
No. I had heard about what he had done for Gucci. He takes risks, has fun with what he does and follows his heart, and that's how I work. I completely work off emotion, love and [a sense of having] no fear. You can't get good results when you work off fear.
What was the creative and working process like in building the collection?
I was given complete freedom to bring my vision. I painted the bodies, and once I was done, Alessandro would come in and bring it to a whole other level. It was so amazing to work with the materials — the accessibility to the greatest stuff in the world. Obviously, he has a wide range of influences and knowledge, so he elevated my pieces to luxury and street chic. It was very easy and fun. I was painting and listening to music, and I felt like I was back home in my creative space, you know? Alessandro would look at it, and we would talk or he would just immediately start — boom, boom, boom — adding things. That creative energy pushes and makes each other better, you know? I got that from skateboarding too — it taught me about camaraderie and trust between your friends. That's how Alessandro works — he makes everybody feel great about what they bring to the table.
What's your favourite piece from the collection?
I like the gold bomber jacket. I did that at around seven or eight in the evening the day before the show. It was just some leftover silhouettes that we had that hadn't been painted. I was already done, but I just wanted to keep painting, so I put on music and painted. I whipped that one up and hung in the room. When I came back up, Alessandro had already got to it and started reworking and adding things.
What does it mean to you now, from creating your own personal Gucci items to being officially part of the storied house?
Oh man, it's like an honour. It's kind of like validation for my insanity. So many people didn't understand what I was doing. It just lets everybody know that you can start with nothing and end up with something, if you're really persistent and have a vision.
Lastly, we want to know: When was the last time you really got into trouble?
Um... I really can't remember.
To view the Gucci fall/winter 2016 collection, click here.